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Define Illegal Downloading

  • Last Updated : 07 Aug, 2021

Illegal downloading is a process of getting/downloading data(like documents, images, videos, audio, etc.) that you are not allowed to use on the internet. Or, in other words, illegal downloads are a way in which user/users download files without having any legal right to download them. The files which are downloaded are copyrighted. As we know, a lot of data present on the internet is free i.e., you don’t need any license for downloading, distribution, etc. but some files/data have copyright laws intact with them, which prevents a common user to download or distribute it if he doesn’t have any license. These laws exist to prevent digital piracy of data on the internet. Copyright is a law that protects the original work of authorship. Copyright law covers literary, artistic, musical, architectural works and computer software, etc.

Why such downloads are labeled illegal?

Let’s understand this concept with the help of a simple example. Whenever a new song album is produced, the people associated with the song get monetary benefits. So, they label the song as copyright content. Therefore, nobody else could sell, distribute, copy without their permission. Now, if you resell that song without their permission, then it is labeled as a crime because you are breaking the copyright laws. The song producers can sue you with a heavy amount or you might even land up in jail for this, depending on the severity of the crime caused by you.

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P2P file sharing

P2P stands for peer to peer. It is a file-sharing process. In this kind of file sharing, a file is distributed multiple times with friends or peers. Anyone who is online has super easy access to lots of files. But, if you are distributing copyrighted data to your peers, again, it is a crime as you are helping to distribute illegally downloaded content. Many of the P2P software has file sharing mode ON by default. Sometimes, the user’s files get transmitted to their peers without the user being aware of it. So, the user must ensure it to prevent any mishap from happening.

Digital Piracy

Digital piracy is an illegal act in which copying and sharing content without the permission of the owner of the content or copyright holder. Or in other words, digital piracy includes activities like illegally sharing copyrighted content like games, music, movies, TV shows, videos, software, notes, etc. such content is called pirated content. Whether you upload these copyrighted contents to share it with others without a license or you download the copyrighted contents without a license, the copyright owner takes this law-breaking thing very seriously and immediately takes action against the accused persons. The owner might recover the amount he has lost due to this and may put the accused person behind bars. 

Real-life examples of illegal downloads

There are several incidences that have happened in real life where users were convicted of illegal downloads.
The following examples illustrate the various scenarios in which piracy occurs. These real-life incidents depict how software piracy affects all industries negatively.

  • Using torrent software to download movies, music,  or software: Torrent is software that contains pirated content, using torrent software is illegal and might land you in jail.
  • Making a website from which other users can download the pirated content without anyone’s permission: There are many websites available online that allow free download of pirated content. The users downloading it as well as the user running such websites both commit crimes.
  • Streaming content of content owners, without any license: Owners’ permission is essential for streaming their content, else it comes under breaking copyright laws.
  • Downloading cracked versions of software or even OS: There are many websites that offer free premium versions of software or OS. one must not fall prey to it.
  • Sharing copyrighted content with peers: This is again unethical in nature as the one sharing the content is equally committing a crime by helping others to get access to pirated content.

Dangers of illegal downloading 

An illegal download or getting free pirated versions might be tempting, but it also puts the user at severe risk. There are other dangers of illegal downloads other than fines or jails. Below are the points that describe it:

  • An illegally downloaded file might contain virus and malware which cause huge damage to the system and also put the security of the user at risk.
  • Sharing files further puts the user’s data at risk and is more liable to data theft as, by mistake, the user may end up sharing his own confidential file with others.
  • Inappropriate images or vulgar content are present on the websites where illegal copies are distributed.
  • One could face legal consequences if one participates in copyright infringement directly or indirectly in any unfair means.
  • P2P applications are capable of exposing all file contents on your computer, including confidential data files, saved accounts, passwords, etc.

How to prevent illegal downloading and sharing

The content owners are increasingly worried about piracy attacks, because of which they are not able to make an adequate amount of profit out of their content. Below are the ways to stop digital piracy or illegal downloads:

  • Make sure the P2P software doesn’t leak your private files and the file-sharing feature is turned off.
  • Check the status of the download URLs if a breach is found, immediately remove that pirated URL.
  • Always use a secure network to transfer files so that a pirate can not get access to the file.
  • Check unauthorized download links of the file and remove them.
  • Educate users about the harmful effects of digital piracy. The goal of educating the users is to highlight that piracy is a crime.
  • Remove the encouragement for customers to look for piracy. This will only happen if the content owner offers the product at a decent price, then the need for piracy among customers will decrease substantially.
  • Technologies like AI can help in detecting piracy and bringing it down by taking the necessary steps.
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